The Parc du Thabor is a vast public park in the city centre covering just over 10 hectares. The Thabor is not the largest park in the city of Rennes, but it is the oldest and most prestigious... and the most frequented! This park is composed of several parts of different style and use:
The Parc du Thabor takes its name from Mount Tabor in Palestine. This mount, which dominates the Lake of Tiberias, is, according to Christian belief, the place of the Transfiguration of Christ. At an imprecise date, the monks of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Melaine in Rennes gave this nickname to the top of a modest flat hill adjacent to their abbey, the latter occupying its western flank. The toponymy had a certain coherence since the land immediately to the north-west of the Thabor was that of a farm belonging to the abbey, the ferme de la Palestine (of which the current rue de la Palestine, which runs along the park to the north, keeps the memory).
The abbey’s fruit and vegetable gardens occupied this area called Thabor, which is now in the town centre but was originally outside the walls. A little later, the gardens of the archiepiscopal palace (located immediately to the west of the abbey) were grafted onto and intertwined with the abbey gardens, becoming a constant source of conflict of use between the growing (archi)episcopal power and the declining abbatial power.
The present park is the direct descendant of these abbey and episcopal gardens, which became public and the property of the town during the French Revolution. In fact, the use of the abbey gardens as a public promenade had begun shortly before the Revolution, but they were then reserved for men.
Under the Second Empire, the Parc du Thabor was completely reorganised in 1868 by the famous landscape architect Denis Bühler. Some thirty years later, in 1899, the park was enlarged by 4 hectares on the southern slope of the hill by integrating the land of the former Hospice des Catherinettes. Since then, its surface area and appearance have changed little until today.